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How Better Call Saul Subverts Breaking Bad’s Most Important Trope

The second golden age of TV is considered to have begun in the late ’90s with prestige dramas like The Sopranos, and continued with shows like The Shield, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and even Boardwalk Empire. These shows have certain things in common, including a morally ambiguous main character that the audience finds sympathetic despite their many acts of cruelty and evil. These antiheroes often hold relatively respectable positions–a teacher, a cop, a politician–but hide darker tendencies that come to the surface over the course of the show.

Now that these shows aren’t dominating the TV landscape, we’re seeing shows that challenge the idea of the TV antihero. And few do that as well as Better Call Saul, AMC’s Breaking Bad prequel series, which, currently in the middle of airing its fifth and final season, has now officially run as long as Breaking Bad did in the first place.

When we first met Saul Goodman in Season 2 of Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman described him as “a criminal lawyer.” Throughout that show we saw Goodman act as a complete scumbag, a man willing to sell out his grandma if it meant getting a few seconds’ head start. That said, he was also a comic relief character who served as a funny counterpart to Walter White’s increasingly grim transformation into Heisenberg.

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